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Feeling dizzy, Holden takes a taxi to Mr. Antoliniís house. Mr. Antolini asks Holden what is troubling him and why he has failed again. Holden begins an explanation, hoping that Mr. Antolini will understand. Antolini, however, is full of advice and does not give the compassion and acceptance Holden seeks and needs. Holden grows tired of the advice and wants the conversation to end. When he yawns, Mr. Antolini stops talking and helps Holden make his bed. The exhausted boy drops off to sleep almost immediately. He wakes in the night to find Mr. Antolini stroking his forehead. Holden interprets the gesture as something perverse. He panics and decides to leave immediately, telling Mr. Antolini that he has forgotten to collect his suitcases from the locker at Grand Central Station.
Holden tells the reader that Mr. Antolini has been the best teacher he has ever had, referring not only to his academic qualities but his worth as a person. In the previous chapter, Holden thinks about a young boy at Elkton Hills who committed suicide by jumping out a window. The boyís broken body lay on the ground below until Mr. Antolini came along and covered the boy with his coat, then "carried him all the way to the infirmary. He didnít even give a damn if his coat got all bloody." Mr. Antolini possesses compassion and caring that Holden finds quite wonderful. It is only natural that Holden looks to him for help when he needs it most. That is why Holden calls him in the middle of the night and asks to see him. Holden feels certain this man will understand and accept him for who he is.
Holden thinks about Mr. Antoliniís influence on D.B. This man recognized that D.B. had talent and tried to keep him from going to Hollywood, where talent is wasted. To Holden, Mr. Antolini is not merely an intellectual, but somebody who is sensitive and moral, not phony.
When Holden arrives at the Antolini residence, he expects to be understood. He believes this great man will see his point of view, but instead Holden is given a very academic lecture about how brilliance and creativity are fueled by education and scholarship. While Mr. Antolini has correctly analyzed Holdenís trouble, his response to it is theoretical, practical advice from the head. What Holden needs is acceptance and understanding heart. Mr. Antolini just make Holden feel more rejected.
It is especially tragic when Holden wakes to find Mr. Antolini touching him in a manner that seems perverse. What was supposed to be his safest haven filled with compassion has become something shameful and dirty. Once again, Holden is on his own.